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What Are the Different Types of Psychiatric Medication?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 17, 2024
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Psychiatric medication is given to patients to treat symptoms of mental diseases, such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder. These medications work by changing the way the brain releases chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine. The five classes of psychiatric medication available are stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and mood stabilizers. While there are risks associated with taking psychoactive drugs, many people are able to resume their normal lives and feel as they did before the development of the mental disorder.

Stimulants are prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. This type of psychiatric medication causes the brain to produce more of the chemicals known as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to increase the person’s focus and decrease hyperactivity. The medication suppresses the person’s appetite, and it can cause headaches and other health-related issues. Stimulants are extremely addictive, so the person prescribed this type of medication should be under medical supervision.

Antidepressants work by increasing the chemical activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, thus increasing the levels of certain chemicals that are believed to have an effect on the person’s mood and overall feeling of well-being. Most antidepressants affect dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine levels in the brain. This class of medications is prescribed for people with depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, and anxiety. Antidepressants can cause insomnia, headaches, and vomiting, and the medication must be taken for a few weeks before it will begin to be effective.

Antipsychotic psychiatric medication is prescribed to people with schizophrenia or those who suffer from hallucinations. It is also a treatment option for those who are violent, have severe mood swings, or people who cannot seem to connect with the reality of situations. Antipsychotics work to interfere with the brain’s reception of dopamine.

Anxiolytics are for people with debilitating anxiety issues. Many prescription drugs in this class are highly addictive if taken on a regular basis for a long period of time. These drugs will have a sedating effect on the person.

A mood stabilizer is a prescription option for people with bipolar disorder. People with this condition experience extreme high or manic states and extremely severe depression, both of which can occur in a short period of time. Mood stabilizers work to normalize the person’s manic state, and this type of medication is usually prescribed with antidepressants or anxiolytics to treat the other symptoms of bipolar disorder.

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